OFWs negative for MERS-CoV

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

THE Overseas Workers Welfare Administration recently traced the whereabouts of five Cordillerans on the same flight as the Filipino nurse who initially tested positive of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome corona virus (MERS-CoV).

OWWA Regional Director Manuela Peña reported the five Cordillerans on Etihad Airways Flight EY 0424 were traced based on the agency's database and were already reached by the Department of Health as relayed by Regional Director Dr. Valeriano Lopez.

Peña said reports from the DOH director showed the passengers who were Overseas Filipino Workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were negative of MERS-CoV and are now with their respective families.


The male nurse, who arrived in Manila from the UAE on April 15, was initially diagnosed with MERS-CoV after contact with another Filipino paramedic who earlier died of the virus. However, two tests made by the DOH yielded negative results including the nurse's immediate family and those who've had close contact with him.

The Department of Health has been stepping up efforts of tracing passengers who might have had contact with the male nurse.

The five passengers from the Cordillera region based on the OWWA database were from Apayao, Baguio City, Abra, Benguet and another individual from an unidentified address in the region.

The OWWA director said welfare officers of the agency in the Middle East have advised OFWs, especially medical workers, to have regular check-ups and take extra precaution to avoid contracting the virus.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Regional Director Delfina Camarillo said there is no advisory preventing OFWs from leaving the country due to MERS-CoV.

Camarillo said Middle East countries remain the mostly frequented destinations for Filipino migrant workers.

According to the World Health Organization, MERS-CoV is a communicable disease that may be passed on to others through close contact with an infected person.

It has an incubation period of 10 to 14 days and symptoms may include fever, coughing, sneezing and runny nose two weeks after exposure.

The WHO has recorded 242 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 93 deaths, since it was first discovered in March 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

DOH records show OFWs, mostly health workers, have been found positive for the virus in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In a press statement, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the agency has mobilized Task Force MERS-CoV to create heightened awareness among Filipinos.

Ona added there is still no epidemic or outbreak of MERS-CoV in the Middle East and WHO has not imposed travel restrictions to and from the Middle East.

“As a health precaution, however, I have approved the issuance of a Bureau of Quarantine alert bulletin to those travelling from the Middle East and through our international airports so that those who may be affected by the MERS-Corona Virus will be given prompt assistance,” Ona said.

The DOH official further assured Filipinos especially OFWs based in the Middle East and their families and communities the government is exerting maximum effort to keep them informed and aware of all vital developments.

“MERS-Corona Virus is a communicable disease, so it is important that we all work together to prevent the infection from spreading,” he further added.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 24, 2014.

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